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Model Town incident inquiry tribunal pointed fingers at Shehbaz Sharif-Rana Sanaullah

06 December, 2017

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LAHORE: The Model Town incident inquiry tribunal has pointed the finger at Punjab government, particularly Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, for the 2014 crackdown by police in which at least 14 activists of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were killed.

The report was released by the Punjab government via website of its public relations directorate hours after a full bench of the Lahore High Court issued orders for making public the report compiled by Justice Baqar Najafi-led inquiry tribunal.

The bench ordered the authorities concerned to immediately provide copy of the inquiry report to the respondents, who are heirs of the victims, for their information. It ordered that the report should be published by the authorities concerned within 30 days. “To ensure fair trial and administration of justice, the disclosure of this inquiry report of tribunal shall not impact upon the fate/outcome of the trial in progress in contravention of law applicable thereto,” the bench, however, observed.

The inquiry report by Justice Baqir Najfi states that the reports collected from all those concerned and the affidavits submitted by police officers in the field do not depict that any order of disengagement by the chief minister was ever conveyed/ received. “It is shocking to note that everyone has deliberately but unsuccessfully tried to cover each other from possible adverse legal effects,” the report says, adding that such facts and circumstances are bound to draw adverse inference.

“This tribunal has very carefully seen the CD of the first press conference of chief minister Punjab dated June 17, 2014, after the incident in which he did not specifically mention about his direction of disengagement despite taking a notice of it in the morning. The record does not reveal its activation, effective communication, implementation, execution or follow up showing that the order, if any, may have been passed listlessly. While putting all the facts and the circumstances in juxtapositions, it has become crystal clear that order of disengagement was not passed at all, rather position taken by CM Punjab appears to be an afterthought defense not taken before the nation in the press conference,” according to the report.

The report mentioned that the operation planned and designed under the supervision of law minister resulted into gruesome killings which could have easily been avoided. The report says that the facts and circumstances of the bloodbath clearly show that the police officers actively participated in the massacre. The apathy and recklessness of all authorities in Punjab in the matter created genuine doubts about their innocence, it states.

The report comprises more than 130 pages. However, the operative part of the report consists of 74 pages.

The report includes the evidences of witnesses, affidavits by police officials, reports of intelligence agencies, manufacturing/production record, sale/ administration, conclusion and order sheet. Among the witnesses there were five medical officers of different hospitals where injured were taken, four officials of forensic, three injured, 18 police officials including DIG, SPs, ASPs, constables and 15 affidavits from police officials.

Dr Tauqir Shah in his affidavit did mention the order of disengagement telephonically conveyed to the law minister and the home secretary, but in turn they informed that two field officers informed that the situation was likely to be normalized/controlled.

Strange enough that Rana Sana Ullah did not utter a single word about disengagement.

Likewise the home secretary Punjab did not mention in his report about the word disengagement but he indicated something in the following manner and style, “During this period, I also received a call from the secretary to CM who conveyed the CM’s concern regarding the ongoing stand-off and said that matter should be resolved peacefully. I informed him that DCO and DIG operations were on site and trying to resolve the matter peacefully.”

The conclusion of the report comprising 10 pages contains the findings of the tribunal. It states that the police action of firing and severely beating the people on the scene is irrefutably suggestive that the police did exactly what it was sent for and gathered over there. The police and all other concerned officials, without any exception, abetted being desperado and performed daredevil acts which resulted into irreparable loss of innocent lives.

In the meeting dated 16-6-2017 held under chairmanship of the then Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Local Government and Community Affairs Rana Sanaullah and attended by chief secretary, secretary to chief minister, home secretary Punjab, commissioner Lahore, CCPO Lahore, representative of Special Branch, it was told that PAT was seeking to overthrow the government and bring a ‘revolution’, which Sanaullah made clear that Qadri would not be allowed to achieve.

As the commissioner Lahore submitted the report about illegalities in placing barriers and erections on the roads which were considered and treated as encroachments around Minhaj ul Quran, the chair decided to remove them with immediate effect. Dr Tauqeer Shah also consented on behalf of the chief minister Punjab for the removal of the barriers. It was revealed that the participants were in knowledge of the orders passed by the Lahore High Court in an inter-court appeal and no legal opinion from advocate general Punjab was sought prior to the decision of launching the operation.

The report further states that according to DCO Lahore on public complaints, the staff of TMA Gulberg Town and TMAs of Zone II reached the spot in mid night of June 16 for removing the encroachments. The furious mob and sympathizers consisting of mainly young men commenced pelting stones on police. The police as retaliatory measure resorted firing towards the protestors leaving many persons injured at the site of the incident and some of whom succumbed to their injuries afterward.

The report observes that the level of offensive used by police was not by any stretch of imagination commensurate with the resistance offered by the unarmed PAT workers. He also regrets the non-cooperation of the police in helping him dig out the truth. “No police official from top to bottom, whether those who actively participated in the operation or not, […] uttered a single word about the person under whose command the police resorted to firing upon the PAT workers,” he writes. “Understandably, all [police officials] were in unison in withholding the information from this tribunal… unfortunately, such are the facts and circumstances under which 14 persons have been shot,” he states.

The report further states that to deal with such situations under the law, a proviso was added to Section 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, according to which firing can be ordered only under specific directions of an officer of the police not below the rank of an assistant superintendent or deputy superintendent of police. The tribunal, therefore, remained conscious of the deliberate silence and concealment of facts by police officials before this tribunal, creating circumstances to think that the police had to abide by the command announced secretly (or openly) to achieve the target at the cost of even killing the unarmed but precious citizens of Pakistan. This led the tribunal to say that this motif of betrayal of law by the police aimed to bury the truth speaks volumes of their high handedness.

More worryingly, Justice Najafi recalls that when the federal government was asked why the Punjab police chief and DCO Lahore were changed in the run-up to the Model Town bloodbath, it did not provide any satisfactory response. There is more for the casual observer to wonder about: “The day (Jun 17, 2014) and time (between 10.30am to 12pm) both are very vital as the IG Punjab did not practically take over the command of Punjab Police [by then] and at the same time the honourable new chief justice was about to take oath. Had this tribunal been empowered to investigate, the hidden truth [regarding the government’s behind-the-scenes machinations] might have been exposed,” Justice Najafi writes.

The chief minister Punjab in his affidavit took a specific position that on June 17, 2014, his official engagement started after about 9:00 am when he proceeded to Governor House to attend the oath taking ceremony of new Chief Justice of LHC. According to him, having seen the standoff at 9:30 am on TV he immediately contacted his secretary, Dr Tauqir Hussain Shah, on phone to order the police to disengage forthwith.

This tribunal has also painfully noticed the attitude of government and its functionaries towards the orders passed by the High Court wherein ICA No 155/11 dated 19-5-2011 wherein upon the assurance given by not less than SP Operations Model Town, the security barriers were installed to dissatisfaction of both inhabitants of the locality and the police which continued uninterruptedly and with any complaints from any quarter for more than three years, suddenly it was all together ignored without contemplating the disastrous consequences, according to the report.

The report states that in criminology, it is golden principle for assessment of evidence that man can tell a lie but circumstances don’t.

The facts and circumstances of the bloodbath clearly show that the police officers actively participated in the massacre. The apathy and recklessness of all authorities in Punjab in the matter under hand, created the genuine doubts about their innocence. As no offence can go unchecked, therefore, even registration of more than one FIR shall not perpetuate injustice as the version put forward by the PAT leader Javed Hamid, Director Administration, Minhaj ul Quran International, does not appear to be an amplification of the version of the first FIR on the subject.

Keeping in view the above facts and circumstances the reader of this report can easily fix the responsibility of the Minhaj ul Quran incident.

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